Loud, showy cardinals mate more thanks to your birdseed

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Boredom-proof backyard bird feeders have boosted the already growing Cardinal population in Ottawa during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to local bird watchers.

Local bird counts show that the population of northern cardinals, or in an unimaginative Latin nomenclature, Cardinalis cardinalis, was already on the rise before the pandemic struck.

Then isolated families began to beautify their backyards for themselves and for the hungry birds looking for an easy meal.

“More people fed the birds last winter,” said Ottawa naturalist Michael Runtz. “Costco regularly sold sunflower seeds, and that’s unusual.

“If the females are well fed, they will produce more eggs and … more young.”

Photographer Marc Lachance enjoys watching Cardinals court in his backyard, and he makes sure to fill his bird feeders with their favorite snacks. (Marc Lachance)

Bird feeders are the reason the Cardinals came to Ottawa in the first place, according to Runtz, who said that conspicuous non-migratory birds arrived in the 1940s and 1950s and survived Canadian winters thanks to their bellies. full.

The Annual Christmas Bird Count, where volunteers report the number and species of birds they spot on a given day in a specific region, recorded their first sighting of Northern Cardinal in 1965.

In 1994, there were 226, and in 2019, there were 592, according to Runtz, who attributed a combination of climate change and food availability to the bird’s expanding habitat.

Cardinal populations can grow rapidly with more than one brood of young in a season, which is why you’ll hear males showing their pipes deeper into the season, looking for a second date.

“Bird song is one of the reasons women choose men as companions, based on how well they sing,” Runtz said.

Ottawa naturalist Mike Runtz finds the muted colors of a female Northern Cardinal more pleasing than a sighted male. (Marc Lachance)

“Life” in your own backyard

Marc Lachance of Ottawa, an avid bird photographer, noticed a slight increase in the number of Cardinals through his living room window in the McKellar Park neighborhood.

“I have lived in Ottawa since 1985, and at that time there were hardly any cardinals,” said Lachance, a newly retired statistician.

Lachance says he stores Cardinals’ favorites in his backyard bird feeders: sunflower chips and safflower seeds, the latter that squirrels don’t like.

A male Northern Cardinal is seen here in the spring in Ottawa. (Marc Lachance)

Lachance spotted the males bringing seeds to the females, as if to show them that they would be good providers, to encourage them to mate and to set up a nest.

One of her favorite photographs shows a delivery of beak-to-beak seeds, making the birds appear to be exchanging “a French kiss,” Lachance said.

“The pandemic made me realize how much life I have in my own backyard,” he said.

The Red Cardinal’s mating ritual was captured by Marc Lachance of Ottawa in his back yard. (Marc Lachance)


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